Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Is This Britain's Abu Ghraib? Only a Full Inquiry Will Tell Us; COMMENTARY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Is This Britain's Abu Ghraib? Only a Full Inquiry Will Tell Us; COMMENTARY

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW GILLIGAN

IS THIS, as the papers have been saying, "Britain's Abu Ghraib"?

It certainly looks horribly similar, from the nudity to the sexual humiliation, from the trussedup detainees in unnatural positions to the laughter and shamelessness of the abusers.

Only the dog-lead is missing.

It has some of the same stamp of official, institutional approval: perhaps the most alarming thing we have learned from the court martial so far is that these crimes apparently resulted from an unlawful order by the alleged abusers' commanding officer, Major Dan Taylor.

But there is this very British difference.

When the reports of abuses came in from Abu Ghraib, the US army conducted a thorough inquiry into the entire unit concerned - admittedly in secret, and not without some false starts.

But the exhaustive investigations undertaken by Major-General Antonio Taguba, and subsequently leaked to the press, told us most of what we needed to know about the incidents at Abu Ghraib.

And after the story broke, Congress and the federal government launched further inquiries which will probably tell us the rest.

We have nothing of the sort in Britain, nor will we - just the court martial of three individual soldiers, with a few more on the way for other incidents.

The generals and the MoD are taking refuge in the claim - or should that be the fervent hope - that these three squaddies are rotten apples, few and far between. British troops don't do this sort of thing, you know.

We're not like the Americans.

We know how to handle the locals.

We all want to believe that - and it may well, indeed, be true.

But we just don't know, because we haven't investigated properly.

We have no idea whether these were small-scale abuses, limited to those soldiers at that base, or whether it was more of a "British Abu Ghraib". We don't know how far up the chain the knowledge of the abuse went. (And if Major Taylor did give an illegal order, why isn't he on trial too? …

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